Glitz On the Ritz
Juli and Stewart Juneau’s Christmas at home
Located high atop the treasured historic building that was originally the Maison Blanche Department Store, the penthouse of Juli and Stewart Juneau is a magical world during the holiday season. Decked out in myriad glass ornaments and objects handcrafted by Juli, a skilled professional blown-glass artist, each room of their unique home takes on a special holiday glow. “My breath goes into everything I make, and I find it exciting to breathe life into each glass object to create the colors, patterns and swirls of my holiday decorations,” Juli says.
Stewart, a real estate developer, purchased the building in 1995 and spent five years converting it to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and creating the unique penthouse. They enjoy their comfortable home with its wall of windows that overlooks the terrace and the mighty Mississippi River, Stewart says. “We especially enjoy living here during the holiday season, when Juli does an amazing job of decorating, and we have the opportunity of sharing our home with family and friends.”
Filled with fine antiques, Juli’s talent as a glass artist is especially showcased in their penthouse. During the holiday season, “My glass creations hang from chandeliers, cover our large and small Christmas trees and create colorful displays in glass bowls and even on top of our grand piano,” she says. She adds that she takes pleasure in making new glass ornaments each year to add to her already large collection. “I love how the ornaments reflect the light from the antique chandelier in the dining room to give everything a special glow.”
The couple always places a natural fir tree in the corner of the large room that incorporates the living and dining rooms. The tree is decorated with peacock feathers, glass balls and heirloom ornaments. The feathers are all from the peacocks at the couple’s nonprofit safari resort in central Louisiana, near Marksville. They carefully save every feather the peacocks shed for their special Christmas tree.
The 1872 antique piano, made by Hazelton Brothers of New York, a famous piano maker of the day, is always the setting for a large display of Juli’s ornaments. “We discovered the piano in San Francisco on one of our many trips to wine country. It had been in the same family since it was built and the last person to own it was a jazz musician. He personally delivered it to New Orleans and then sat down and played it.”
One of the couple’s interesting annual holiday decorations is the small tree filled with glass balls on the piano. “I fill it with my hand-blown glass balls in all colors, and I think it instantly says that it’s holiday time when you walk down the hall and into our living room and get your first glimpse of the decorations.”
Juli’s large glass balls hang from the elaborately carved antique canopy bed in the master bedroom, and even the adjoining master bathroom has its share of holiday ornaments on display. “Although we both love to share our home to help promote social and philanthropic causes throughout the year, it’s the Christmas season with family and friends that’s one of the most special times of the year for both of us,” she says.
Built in 1908 at the corner of Canal and Dauphine streets, the 13-story building that now accommodates the Juneau’s home was the largest structure of its kind in the city when it was completed. Maison Blanche Department Store occupied the first five floors, according to historian Edward J. Branley, a former employee of the store and a history teacher, with professional offices on the upper floors. Press clippings from the time recorded that Maison Blanche was considered one the finest department stores in the country. “The building has a rich and varied history that has touched many lives,” Stewart says.
Juli quickly points out “Mr. Bingle,” a Christmas snowman was created for Maison Blanche in 1947 as a helper for Santa Claus. “The store was famous for its elaborate Christmas windows and huge sculpture of Mr. Bingle hanging on the front of the building,” she says.
Today Mr. Bingle no longer hangs from the building, however, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel is still aglow with holiday decorations, and high atop the building there’s a secret Christmas fairyland. Julia adds, “I feel we’re keeping the joyous spirit of Christmas that has always been associated with the building alive with our festive decorations for our family and friends to enjoy.”
Stewart and Juli Juneau
Fairy lights are intertwined with Juli’s hand-blown glass ornaments cover the small tree on the antique piano.
Adorned with heirloom ornaments and hand-blown balls, the Christmas tree has special meaning to Juli and Stewart.
Furnished with fine antiques, the living room’s holiday mood is enhanced with Juli’s hand-blown glass vases, bowls and ornaments.
A tiny sequined hat adorns the head of the taxidermied ostrich in the living room.
The large fir Christmas tree is decorated with peacock feathers, glass balls and heirloom ornaments; the feathers are from the peacocks at the Juneau’s nonprofit safari resort in central Louisiana, near Marksville.
An antique chandelier in the dining room is decorated with various hand-blown ornaments; while a collection of jewel-tone goblets is displayed in the center of the dining room table.